What to do about Kashmir ?

What to do about Kashmir ?

by Koenraad Elst

About the Author: The writer, who grew up in the Catholic community in Belgium is an expert in Chinese and Indo-Aryan Studies and Philosophy. He has many books to his credit and his books on India, notably "Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam", and "Indigenous Indians: From Agastya to Ambedkar" have become classics. The following write-up is courtesy the Souvenir "Kashmir: The Forgotten Side", released on the one-day KP Conference held in Kanpur in April 1995: Editor.

The most under-reported case of ethnic cleansing worldwide in recent years is undoubtedly the violent expulsion of a quarter million Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir, practically the whole Hindu population, in 1989-90. Just like the expulsion of all 50,000 Hindus from Kabul after the city was captured by the mujahedin in April 1992, the world press has strictly kept the lid on the news of ethnic cleansing in Kashmir. The Indian media, unable to conceal the facts to its readership, have tried to minimize and ideologically cleanse the news by calling the refugees "migrants" (even while describing Bangladeshi infiltrators with an avowed Lebensraum agenda as "refugees"), by blaming them for communal friction in Jammu where many of them live in refugee camps, and by claiming that they left voluntarily as part of a strategy worked out by the then governor Jagmohan in his desire to have a free field for shooting poor hapless Kashmiri Muslims.

The pro-separatist bias in Kashmir reporting has not missed its effect: influential politicians in the USA and other Western countries are supporting the demands of the terrorists against the world's largest democracy, which ought to have been the West's natural ally in the South Asian region. The same people who oppose the justified independence movements of the Kurds and Tibetans in the name of stability (read: business), suddenly become sponsors of the independence movement when it comes to Kashmir, an integral part of India since thousands of years. Perhaps there is a consistency somewhere in their position: what the Kashmiri separatists have in common with the oppressors of the Kurds and the Tibetans, and what apparently makes them worth supporting, is that they all practice their own bit of genocide. But the plight of the Kurds and Tibetans is at least known to world opinion; the Kashmiri Pandits are unknown to the world, hence unheard.

Who are the Kashmiri Pandits? Since thousands of years, they have been a pillar of Hindu civilization and a living embodiment of the Indian- ness of Kashmir. After the Muslim conquest, physical force and social pressures were combined to Islamize the population; the present-day Kashmiri Pandits are the progeny of those few who managed to avoid conversion to Islam. To preserve their Hindu identity, they had to use compromise, bribes, services to the rulers, flattery, temporary exile, and some feats of heroism. Far from being hostile to Islam, they have developed the understandable habit of flattering Islam and overlooking the problem which Islam poses, esp. by extolling the supposedly tolerant Sufi mysticism popular among the Kashmiri Muslim community and by brandishing the trans-religious notion of Kashmiriat.

The insistent refrain that ''Islam is essentially a religion of peace" and that "all religions are essentially the same", now the banner of the sentimentalist tendency within Indian secularism, has always been most popular among the fearful Hindu minorities in Muslim-majority areas like Sindh, East Bengal and Kashmir. In their position, this white lie was understandable, but today the option of such a superficial explanation of religious hostilities is no longer open. Just like the Arab Christian attempt to transcend religious polarization in the secular ideology of Arab nationalism has ended in failure (expulsion of the remaining Christians from Turkey, attacks on Copts in Egypt, the Lebanese civil war), so also the hopeful balloon of Kashmiriat has now decisively been pin-pricked.

The Kashmiri Muslims have made their rejection of Kashmiriat clear by massively supporting the Pakistani agents who masterminded the separatist guerilla. Too many Kashmiri Pandits have been betrayed or killed by their very neighbours, with whom they thought they had such chummy secular relations. We would like to follow the fashion of exonerating the masses and putting the blame on the militants alone, but unfortunately, just like a majority of the German people shared in Hitler's guilt by bringing him to power, so also the average Kashmiri Muslim is not altogether innocent. It is no use fooling ourselves: after Kashmiris have enjoyed a number of legal and material privileges in India, they are still in favour of separatism, and no further extension of their autonomy and material benefits will convince them that they belong to India. All this secularist poetry about "winning back the hearts of the Kashmiris" overlooks the deep religious roots of Kashmir separatism; not addressing this fundamental problem will only keep the struggle going and will cost thousands of lives. In order to stop the fighting, to save many thousands of lives bound to be lost in a continuing war, and to preserve India's unity and integrity, it is necessary to seek out the very root of Kashmiri separatism: Islamic fundamentalism.

To be sure, many nominal Muslims throughout Islamic history have followed universal human principles including a toleration of and fellow- feeling for their non-Muslim neighbours. But as soon as Islamization campaigns make them more sensitive to the demands of the doctrine, even many of these good people tend to develop the typical hostility against unbelievers. The last decades have witnessed precisely this Islamization of hitherto superficial Muslims in areas like Malaysia, East Bengal and Kashmir, and the result has invariably been the spread of hostility against unbelievers to the supposedly most tolerant corners of society, esp. the backward villages and the westernized elites. The indoctrination of the Muslim masses has seldom been as thorough as in this modern age.

As long as Kashmir remains a Muslim-majority area, there will be some form of anti-Indian separatism in Kashmir. The best solution is therefore to free the Kashmir population from their conditioning through education. After a decisive victory of the Indian Army against the separatist militias (the precondition of any effective policy), the Kashmiri Muslims should be exposed to a programme of ideological and cultural deconditioning, A crash course in the true history of Muslim conquests would be a crucial factor in breaking the spell cast on the minds of otherwise fine human beings. This programme could be taken up by civil organisations or by the State.

Failing a policy which takes on Islamic fundamentalism itself at the ideological level, the second option is to change the demographic composition of Kashmir; lifting Article 370 would allow Hindu non-Kashmiris to settle in the valley alongwith the Pandits, and the government could give land to Army veterans. In the present atmosphere this would put the Hindus in Kashmir in a position similar to that of Israeli settlers in the West Bank; having to live in fortified settlements surrounded by a hostile local population. Perhaps that is a temporary inconvenience which Indians will have to take in their stride.

Meanwhile, Indian Muslims also have a role in the Indian struggle for Kashmir. They should speak out to the Muslim world in favour of Kashmir remaining inside secular India. Of course, this would not necessarily be proof of their support for a secular rather than an Islamic state. Before partition, modernist Muslims favoured a separate Muslim-majority state, but traditionalist Muslims opposed partition. Gullible and self-deceiving Hindus have eagerly considered the latter position as secularist and nationalist: in reality, the traditionalists, including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, were only more ambitious than the democratic modernists around Mohammed Ali Jinnah. While Jinnah had a short term strategy to secure a part of India as a Muslim state, the traditionalists had a long-term strategy to conquer or reconquer the whole of India for Islam.

Today, the plea that some Muslim leaders, from M.J. Akbar to Syed Shahabuddin, against the secession of Kashmir, may well stem from the same concern to strengthen the position of Islam within India. Indeed, the less than wholehearted support of several radical Islamic states for the Pakistani claim on Kashmir probably results from a concern for the growth of Indian Islam, which might be stunted seriously if a successful secession of Kashmir exposes them. But whatever their ulterior motives, let us be practical: Indian Muslim leaders should be encouraged to speak out against Kashmiri separatism, not just in their own papers, but on international forums. Wherever the Pakistani lobby pleads the separatist cause, Akbar and Shahabuddin should be sent to plead the integrationist cause. They should tell the world that the vast majority of the Indian Muslims, along with the Hindus, support the full integration of Kashmir with India, and that the traitorous clique of the secularist "human rights activists" who plead surrender to the terrorists, represent only themselves.

Kashmir is an integral part of India, the political embodiment of Hindu civilization. This should not be surrendered to the barbaric assault by Pakistan and its terrorist agents.

Source: Koshur Samachar

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